First Drive
One positive thing to emerge from soaring fuel costs in the summer of 2008 was the American public's willingness to consider alternative fuels. This gave Volkswagen the opportunity to introduce super efficient high mileage diesel engines over here, items that Europeans have held as commonplace for years. What many associate with an SUV, besides the ample seating space, is a large engine with loads of torque. The common side effect of loads of torque from a gas-burning engine, though, is usually poor fuel economy. With the new '09 Touareg TDI, Volkswagen has combined the torque from a gas V8 with fuel economy more readily associated with a four-cylinder.

The Touareg 2 TDI is the second vehicle Volkswagen has released utilizing 50-state-legal clean diesel technologies here in the U.S., and it won't be the last. By the end of 2009, VW will have a total of four diesel models in showrooms including the Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen and the Mk VI Rabbit. With such a variety of models available, VW will make owning a diesel vehicle that fits your needs easy.

The Touareg V6 TDI Clean Diesel is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged six cylinder engine that produces 221 hp and an impressive 407 lb-ft of torque starting at 1750 rpm. It is also unique to the U.S. market. Compared to its European counterpart the U.S. version has 19 fewer horses but has more torque at lower rpm. This isn't due to fuel quality or emissions; it's the driving style and demands of the American consumer. Volkswagen engineers found it necessary to reduce the size of the turbocharger to give the engine a power curve more suited to the varying road conditions found in the States. The benefit of using the smaller variable geometry turbo is how fast it spools, helping combat a decrease in low-end response experienced at higher altitudes and allowing the vehicle to produce peak torque at a measly 1750 revs. And while most consumers might not notice, the engineers wanted to make sure even the most discerning drivers would be happy.

Normally you don't associate heavy SUVs with Tier 2, Bin 5/ULEV II low-emissions standards, mainly because the heavier the vehicle, the greater the emissions. What makes the Touareg V6 TDI 50-state legal are major advancements in diesel technology. ADBlue, a 35 percent urea solution, is continuously sprayed into the exhaust stream right before the DeNOx catalyst. As the solution and exhaust gases enter the DeNOx catalyst, a chemical reaction occurs that splits the nitrogen oxides into nitrogen and water, reducing NOx emissions by 90 percent.

The Touareg V6 TDI has also retained and advanced upon the safety features commonly associated with an SUV. It is equipped with a Prevent and Preserve Safety System (PPSS) consisting of more than 45 standard safety features designed to help drivers both avoid and survive a collision. Preservation features include anti-intrusion steel door beams, safety cage unibody construction, six airbags, and three-point safety belts with pretensioners on all outboard seating positions. While surviving a crash is critical, avoiding it is even better, so prevention features include an advanced tire pressure monitoring system, intelligent crash response system, massive four-wheel vented brakes, Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), and Anti-lock Braking System. In addition to the long list of standard features, optional HID headlamps and an ultrasonic rear-park assistance system are available to further enhance the PPSS.

The following may seem like an odd comparison, but it makes a point about the performance characteristics of the Touareg V6 TDI. From a dead stop, if you were to go head-to-head with a 2009 Jetta 2.5L automatic, from zero to 60 mph you'd be more or less dead even with an elapsed time of 8.5 seconds. The Touareg TDI's sprinting ability is quite impressive considering its 2,000-pound weight disadvantage.

Having owned a 2004 Touareg V6, I've always loved the duality of the vehicle's nature. Equipped with the standard spring steel suspension it was an amazing road-going vehicle with exceptional off-road capabilities. A new feature seen in the 2009 Touareg V6 TDI, called Comfort Suspension, changes the Touareg's driving characteristics-and not necessarily in a good way. While going in a straight line at low speeds it was fine, but as soon as I got up to speed or hit a corner the confident handling that I remembered from driving my '04 was quickly replaced with apprehension and the desire slow down. For the average soccer mom driver the suspension will offer comfort and stability. If you're more performance-minded like moi, opt for the four-corner air suspension or upgraded coil springs with a stiffer suspension and increased handling.

Having driven every variation of the Touareg available besides the V10 TDI, the V6 TDI engine is by far the most promising configuration to date. It's quieter than the VR6 gas engine, has more torque, and most importantly gets much better gas mileage. Volkswagen only expects 15 to 20 percent of Touareg sales to be the V6 TDI, but hopefully the American people can disprove those low estimates. The real hurdle might be keeping the TDIs in stock so consumers have the chance to experience it, because in order to understand it, you have to drive it.

And for those worried that the diesel engine needs more upkeep than the gas engine, the Touareg V6 TDI comes with a no charge Carefree Maintenance Program that covers all the scheduled maintenance including the ADBlue solution for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

2009 Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI
* Layout
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive

* Engine
3.0-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve,turbocharged and intercooled

* Transmission
Six-speed automatic

* Suspensio
Independent front and rear

* Brakes
Vented front and rear discs

* Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.):
187.2/75.9/68.0
Wheelbase: 112.4 in.
Curb Weight: TBA

* Performance
Peak Power: 221 hp
Peak Torque: 407 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm 0-62
mph: 8.5 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph

Price Tag
$TBA

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